Many groups around the region will split $1.2 million in Columbia Basin Trust community initiative funding following final approval by the Regional District of Central Kootenay last week. But others will receive an apology instead.
The board acknowledged the rules weren’t applied uniformly this year and certain groups received money while others in similar circumstances were told they were ineligible and withdrew their applications or didn’t submit them.
“This is certainly a dilemma,” said chair John Kettle, adding he believed the only way to handle things was to approve the grants as presented. “We have negated some [applications] we’re going to have to apologize for. It’s unfortunate.”
Causing confusion is whether services funded through tax dollars are eligible for Trust grants — generally they aren’t, but there are exceptions or ways around it.
For example, RDCK fire departments aren’t supposed to receive funds, but affiliated fire protection societies have been awarded money to buy equipment for them.
“Unfortunately we excluded some applications because of the rules we received, which we thought was proper protocol,” said vice-chair and Slocan director Hillary Elliott. She knew of at least two projects from her village that might have received funding had they been provided with different information at the outset.
“It’s very disappointing. At the same time do I penalize other communities for doing great projects because ours didn’t have the same benefit? No. I’m hoping next year we will have this sorted out. It’s about consistency, not who gets what.”
Slocan Valley director Walter Popoff said he intends to compensate excluded organizations in his area through separate grants to the tune of $25,000 to $30,000.
“Going forward I want to see firm direction so this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Nelson mayor John Dooley said he was less concerned about whether a project received tax dollars than whether it had broad community benefit.
“We need a fair strategy,” he said. “We are dealing with guidelines dictated by Columbia Basin Trust and should have a clear idea where the flaws are.”
Kettle said next year they’ll ask for a template in writing.